Hosting a MELSIG Event

The Media-Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group (MELSIG) has run one-day events across the UK since it was formed early in 2008. The 30 events held to date have all been oversubscribed. There is no charge to delegates to attend, though a charge of £20 is made for delegates who don’t turn up as we usually run a ‘wait list’ of people who want to attend. A good proportion of attendees have been to previous events and their interest and experience rub off as they network with colleagues at hosting institutions.

MELSIG is about academic innovation: it considers the opportunities and challenges associated with digital and social media. By valuing their shared interest, innovators are able to meet their peers and supportively validate, inspire or challenge emerging thinking and practice.

A core group of experts is at the heart of MELSIG. Members of this core group are recognised as innovators across the sector, with many having good publication records.

The SIG operates in many ways and the events have consistently fed into other opportunities for scholarship and collaborative development for those who get involved. As might be expected, this means hosting institutions not only discover new champions of their own but see these people establish reputations nationally through the SIG.

The benefits of hosting an event

  • MELSIG involves staff at the host institution in leading-edge thinking about pedagogy, using media and technology, managing the use of media and technology, and current thinking about enhancing and transforming learner engagement through digital and social media.
  • Events create a platform for academics from host institutions to find professional recognition by presenting their innovative practice and showing themselves as being capable academic leaders alongside peers from other institutions.
  • The host institution becomes associated with innovation in the lead up to the event, but more importantly as a lasting outcome of the event. Events generate new thinking through presentations and workshops and this is recorded and then shared through the MELSIG site and other online networks. Events have notoriously also seeded many book chapters, academic papers, and other publications.
  • Institutionally, Learning, Teaching & Assessment strategies, academic development and curriculum innovation initiatives receive external validation and an injection of critically considered ideas.
  • The MELSIG Steering Group is made up of experienced educational developers. Its members not only understand media-enhanced learning, we understand the realities and intricacies of educational change and are able to take a holistic view of innovation.
  • MELSIG events create an opportunity for academics, IT leaders, learning technologists, and educational developers to share their perspectives together in a common, externally facilitated context. The events help to establish common ground and we hope this fosters productive thinking as a legacy.
  • We come to you! By hosting the event you are able to engage a large number of your staff in a common interest. This group then becomes a resource to the institution, networking either informally or formally. Ideally there is a 50:50 balance of internal and external delegates at events.
  • MELSIG events conclude with a ’round robin review’ in which as many as 100 delegates are asked to share one different ‘take away’ idea from the day. If you listen to these recordings you will hear there really are 100 different rich ideas to be taken away!

MMU comes out strongly in the twitter feed from our event there in April 2014

What does a MELSIG host need to do?

You provide the space for the one-day event, refreshments for between 60 and 100 delegates, and some administrative support. Typically this amounts to:

  • Space: A lecture theatre from 9.30 to 12.30, then classrooms for three parallel sessions. We try to reconvene at the end of the day in either a lecture theatre or a large classroom. In some cases a PC lab can be useful depending on the special focus. Space is needed for refreshments too.
  • Refreshments: for delegates on arrival, a buffet lunch, an afternoon coffee break.
  • Administrative support: MELSIG will promote the event externally and develop the programme with the host institution. You will need to,
    • identify three or more local innovators who are interested in sharing their practice at the beginning of the day;
    • promote the event within your institution and with any local networks you may have, typically using the channels you would use for other CPD activities and learning and teaching events;
    • run registration and provide joining instructions. A printed programme and other printed information (briefing documents, activity cards, etc) is usually given out at registration with delegate badges (large printing please!);
    • set up a space for registration and refreshments.

What MELSIG will do

MELSIG is made up of volunteers and has no funding of its own. It has a core organising group and a large network, most of whom have contributed to previous events and activities. The host will liaise with one or two of the core group to agree the programme and its focus. Typically, MELSIG will,

  • identify and then communicate with potential contributors from the institution’s region and nationally;
  • devise and run engaging workshops that have either a practical ‘hands-on’ nature or stimulate thinking towards curriculum innovation. Workshops on Challenges and Opportunities have been run at some events designed to engage stakeholders with diverse institutional roles and perspectives.
  • Devise ‘delegate thunderstorms’ – ad hoc, short presentations and discussion groups designed to share practice and address specific questions relating to the special focus for the day;
  • Establish an inclusive, collaborative and active ethos for the day by engaging registered delegates prior to the event through social networks and ‘video postcards’ and by briefing contributors and delegates on the morning about the participative ethos;
  • Set up the online registration tool* and work with the host to manage delegate registration;
  • Evaluate the event and report findings to the host.
  • Post user-generated artefacts from the day on social media sites as appropriate and agreed with participants and the host.

* Eventbrite or Lanyrd is used

Quotes from recent events

This comment came following the event at the University of Huddersfield (September 2013)

“It was a remarkable experience, for me, because from ten in the morning until four in the afternoon, among the more than 90 people who took part, not one word was wasted. Everything said was designed to improve students’ experience of learning. It was inspiring to be with such dedicated teachers and researchers.”

Kathrine Jensen, host representative, University of Huddersfield

“Hosting the MELSIG event was a really great opportunity to engage staff at the University of Huddersfield with interactive and practical sessions. Our colleagues were keen to book on as the event featured a range of sessions and had the feel of a conference rather than internal staff development. The opportunity to draw on the MELSIG expertise in this area was incredibly valuable and the event was also a useful way to showcase institutional innovation to a broader audience.”

We received this from a participant in the University of Derby event in April 2012:

“I am a total novice to media enhanced learning and I felt that this event was an excellent way to learn about the potential for using various media to enhance learning and teaching in a HE context. The various sessions provided a good balance between the theory and practicalities of using various media. The morning sessions on video and giving audio feedback to students provided some really interesting case studies and food for thought. I would now feel more confident to introduce video into sessions and our team has already discussed the potential for our business advisers to provide audio feedback to their clients when preparing business plans etc.

The afternoon sessions I opted for were equally useful (Designing and making a podcast & What to do with your media file when you have made it). Alan Carr did a great practical demonstration of how to use Audacity. He even provided us with a free copy of the software and resource CD to take away – which is always appreciated! We are now considering ways in which we can produce short podcasts on our webpages – interviews with guest entrepreneurs etc and integrate this into the sessions that we deliver at LJMU.”

Typical Outline Programme for  MELSIG Events

09:15 – 09:45 Registration and coffee

09:45 – 10:15 Welcome

Welcome to host University (usually by the Head of Academic Development or the PVC for Teaching & Learning)

Introduction to MELSIG (Andrew Middleton, Chair of MELSIG)

10:15 – 11.15 Innovation at host university

3 x 20 minute case studies or demos

11:20- 12:15 Innovation in the region

3 x 20 minute case studies or demos

Round up with questions for all (10 minutes)

12:15 – 13:00 Lunch

Networking and Challenge & Opportunity card review

13:00 – 14:00 Special Focus Parallel workshops

A mix of practical, idea/reflection-based workshops or ‘CoLabs’

14:00 – 15:00 More Special Focus Parallel workshops

A mix of practical, idea/reflection-based workshops or ‘CoLabs’

15:00 – 15:15 Refreshments

15:15 – 15:45 Parallel sessions – Delegate Thunderstorms

3 x 10 minutes short presentations or discussion groups

15:45 – 16:00 Plenary

A rapid round robin review from delegates on what they will take away and talk to other colleagues about after the event.

16:00 Finish and Depart